Freedom bill could increase powers of entry

Freedom bill could increase powers of entry

By Alex Stevenson

MPs and peers say they are deeply concerned over plans to give ministers "carte blanche" over the circumstances in which the authorities can enter people's homes.

A report from the joint committee on human rights warns that the measures contained in the 'freedom bill' actually create new risks to individuals' civil liberties.

The government is reviewing its existing powers of entry to private properties, including homes.

It is also proposing to authorise ministers to extend existing powers of entry and roll back safeguards, prompting criticism from committee chair Hywel Francis.

"The proposals in the bill are overly broad and give ministers carte blanche to change powers of entry as they see fit," he said.

"This power needs to be limited to provide real protection for individual privacy, and existing powers of entry need to be examined carefully to reduce their scope and number."

Parliamentarians also called on the government to go further in its plans for DNA profiles of innocent people who are arrested but not charged.

Ministers are refusing to meet civil liberties campaigners' demands that these be deleted outright, and are instead insisting they will be retained for five years in certain circumstances.

"Retention of this type of sensitive material must be governed by a clear statutory framework which limits retention to circumstances which are justified in the interests of the prevention and detection of crime," Dr Francis added.

"Unfortunately, the government's current proposals for a 'catch-all' discretion for police to retain material for undefined reasons of 'national security' does not appear to meet that standard."

MPs and peers suggested the government should be able to retain biometric material only for reasons of national security.